A juggler long through all the town
Had raised his fortune and renown;
You'd think (so far his art transcends)
The devil at his fingers' ends.
Vice heard his fame, she read his bill;
Convinced of his inferior skill,
She sought his booth, and from the crowd
Defied the man of art aloud:
'Is this, then, he so famed for sleight?
Can this slow bungler cheat your sight!

Dares he with me dispute the prize?
I leave it to impartial eyes.'
Provoked, the juggler cried, “tis done.
In science I submit to none.'
Thus said, the cups and balls he played;
By turns, this here, that there, conveyed.
The cards, obedient to his words,
Are by a fillip turned to birds.
His little boxes change the grain:
Trick after trick deludes the train.

He shakes his bag, he shows all fair;
His fingers spreads, and nothing there;
Then bids it rain with showers of gold,
And now his ivory eggs are told.
But when from thence the hen he draws,
Amazed spectators hum applause.
Vice now stept forth, and took the place
With all the forms of his grimace.
'This magic looking-glass,' she cries,
(There, hand it round) 'will charm your eyes.'

Each eager eye the sight desired,
And every man himself admired.
Next to a senator addressing:
'See this bank-note; observe the blessing,
Breathe on the bill.' Heigh, pass! 'Tis gone.
Upon his lips a padlock shone.
A second puff the magic broke,
The padlock vanished, and he spoke.
Twelve bottles ranged upon the board,
All full, with heady liquor stored,

By clean conveyance disappear,
And now two bloody swords are there.
A purse she to a thief exposed,
At once his ready fingers closed;
He opes his fist, the treasure's fled;
He sees a halter in its stead.
She bids ambition hold a wand;
He grasps a hatchet in his hand.
A box of charity she shows,
'Blow here;' and a churchwarden blows,

'Tis vanished with conveyance neat,
And on the table smokes a treat.
She shakes the dice, the boards she knocks,
And from all pockets fills her box.
She next a meagre rake address'd:
'This picture see; her shape, her breast!
What youth, and what inviting eyes!
Hold her, and have her.' With surprise,
His hand exposed a box of pills,
And a loud laugh proclaimed his ills.

A counter, in a miser's hand,
Grew twenty guineas at command.
She bids his heir the sum retain,
And 'tis a counter now again.
A guinea with her touch you see
Take every shape, but charity;
And not one thing you saw, or drew,
But changed from what was first in view.
The juggler now in grief of heart,
With this submission owned her art:

'Can I such matchless sleight withstand?
How practice hath improved your hand!
But now and then I cheat the throng;
You every day, and all day long.'


About John Gay


John Gay was an English poet and dramatist and member of the Scriblerus Club. He is best remembered for The Beggar's Opera (1728), a ballad opera. The characters, including Captain Macheath and Polly Peachum, became household names. Early Life Gay was born in Barnstaple, England and was educated at the town's grammar school. On leaving school he was apprenticed to a silk mercer in London, but being weary, according to Samuel Johnson, "of either the restraint or the servility of his occupation", he soon returned to Barnstaple, where he was educated by his uncle, the Rev. John Hanmer, the Nonconformist... Read more...

Poet of the day

Christopher Pearse Cranch (March 8, 1815 – January 20, 1892) was an American writer and artist.

Cranch was born in the District of Columbia. He attended Columbian College and Harvard Divinity School. He briefly held a position as a Unitarian minister. Later, he pursued various occupations: a magazine editor, caricaturist,...
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Poem of the day


Songs that could span the earth,
When leaping thought had stirred them,
In many an hour since birth,
We heard or dreamed we heard them.

Sometimes to all their sway
We yield ourselves half fearing,
Sometimes with hearts grown grey
We curse ourselves for...
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